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The Rest of Worship


Theologian Josef Pieper believed that true leisure could be experienced only by those who knew how to worship: “Cut off from the worship of the divine, leisure becomes laziness and work inhuman.” In a world without worship, work becomes a religion, especially since our natural tendency is to try to approach God on the basis of our own effort. As Pieper says, people seem to mistrust everything that is effortless: “He can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble, he refuses to have anything as a gift.”

This mentality has infiltrated the church’s approach to worship. We like to think of worship as something that we do for God, our offering to Him. True, worship is described as an act of service in the Bible (Rom. 12:1–2), but worship is not work in the technical sense. Work serves some other purpose; it is the means to accomplish another objective. Worship is an end in itself.

Worship is also not a performance or entertainment for God. Although the language of “service” is sometimes used in connection with worship, our worship does not provide God with something He lacks. He does not depend on us for anything, not even for His own happiness (see Acts 17:24–25). God is blessed by our worship in the sense that He is pleased to accept it. The Lord wants our worship because He knows it is an appropriate expression of our  relationship with Him.

In fact, God receives glory and honor from our worship, but we also receive blessings from offering our worship to God. Our worship helps to usher us into the Lord’s presence, a place where our souls find rest because we are focused on who He is and His love for us.

Apply the Word

For too many of us church has become a spiritual treadmill. We feel pressured to perform in worship and to produce something for the church in order to justify our presence there. But true worship does not need anything else to justify it; it is enough simply to worship. Congregational worship is designed to benefit the congregation as well as glorify God.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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